After launching a little over a decade ago, it didn’t take long for Kickstarter to become more than a place for amateur inventors to sell their ideas to the public. It soon became fraught with failures, scams, and over-promises of countless products’ capabilities and worth. To help improve the reputation of the site, Kickstarter has released a list of new guidelines, recommendations, and enforced rules when it comes to promoting a crowdfunded item.
Kickstarter is encouraging users to embrace honesty, transparency, and openness when it comes to presenting both the promised deliverables and the risks for a given project. It’s strongly discouraging to refer to a product as “the world’s first” or “the world’s best”—descriptions that are nearly impossible to prove—and instead back up any claims about originality or superiority to existing products with facts or supporting evidence from third-parties.
The company is also asking users to present projects as ideas instead of as finished products, and to be honest with the progress, stage of development, and how long it will be before a finished product is delivered to backers. Kickstarter also suggests being honest with what donations from backers will be used for, and how they will, realistically, help advance an idea to the next and final stages of development. Promises about finalized pricing and how much cheaper a product will be compared to existing items are discouraged, as are making false claims of support using logos from well-known press publications. Boasting about how quickly funding is being raised is also frowned upon, as it has no real bearing on the potential success or failure of an idea.
Those are all just recommendations, however, meant to improve the odds of success for a crowdfunded project and the overall reputation of the platform itself. Kickstarter has also detailed a series of rules for “visually presenting your project” that it will actively enforce, suspending projects that it feels aren’t playing nicely. The main thrust seems to be deterring users from relying on overly polished or photorealistic renders of a promised product that doesn’t exist yet, images or videos that have been heavily edited to show additional functionality or options that a prototype isn’t capable of, and generally misleading potential backers about the progress or capabilities of an idea.
Photos and videos of existing prototypes are instead encouraged, even if it doesn’t reflect the look or polish of the final product. Kickstarter also goes so far as to recommend videos shot in a single take on a smartphone instead of over-produced commercials that simply do not reflect where a product is in its development cycle. Finally, projects like gadgets and electronics that will be as dependent on software as they are on hardware are required to demonstrate the current functionality or be upfront about the fact that the code hasn’t been developed yet.
How strict Kickstarter will be with these rules remains to be seen. Even large corporations have turned to crowdfunding sites in recent years as a way to market new products, and it’s hard to believe Kickstarter will give them the boot if they share a slick, well-produced video with potential backers. It sounds more like it gives the platform additional tools for dealing with obvious scams, which is very much needed at this point. Kickstarter is not only dealing with competition from other large crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo, but platforms like GoFundMe and Patreon who’ve given creators a better place to find financial support. It’s still buyer beware, but at least potential backers will have a better idea of what they’re getting into.